Sunday, October 5, 2008

The People's Market

Posted By on October 5, 2008, 10:12 PM

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While downtown may be playing host to the usual early October event on Sunday, just a short drive away will be another weekly Sunday event that will go just as long... but serves food.

--- The People's Market has been serving as a summer-long marketplace for those looking to find local deals in the old fashion grassroots way.  Building on the idea of community run trading and selling, while giving us the opportunity to partake in activities not normally found at other events like this.  And all on a Sunday no less.  I got a chance to chat with Market creator Kyle LaMalfa about the history of the market, the services it offers, what's left for the last month of this year's run, and a few other topics that came to mind.

Kyle LaMalfa (with Ralph Becker)

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http://slcpeoplesmarket.org/

Gavin: Hey Kyle. First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.

Kyle: Gavin! Thanks for the interview. I am an SLC transplant from the town of Milwaukee, WI since time I was 3 years old. Except for a year of fun in Seattle, I have lived in Utah ever since. As a young man, I was famously shy. As an adult, I have grown out of my shell. Over the past few years, I've been involved in a few projects around town, independent films, a country-music band... I ran the lasers for a while at the Planetarium when they had 3-D shows. I am a volunteer at People's Market. I have a day job at Allegiance, Inc.

Gavin: For those who are unaware, what is The People's Market?

Kyle: People's Market is a weekly Sunday market held from 10-3 at the International Peace Gardens. While there you'll find artisan crafts, farm-fresh fruits & veggies, delicious prepared foods, music and a relaxing atmosphere. Our vendors come from around the neighborhood, around the valley and a few from outside SL county. Our customers are residents of the neighborhood, jaded Downtown Farmer's Market customers, and others who just can't make it downtown on Saturday for whatever reason. Some people start or end their Sunday ride on the Jordan River Parkway with us. Our logo says it all: Local Goods, Entrepreneurship, Diversity. We want to improve the local economy by creating new entrepreneurs and allowing existing ones to market directly to customers without a ton of overhead. Our most prized program for youth entrepreneurs - where kids 17 & under can be a vendor for $1 per week. Although it's been sad to lose them, we have already 'graduated' some entrepreneurs to larger markets like the Downtown Farmer's Market and the market in Park City.

Kyle: People's Market is a collaboration of local residents, vendors, and several business partners who believe in the power of an outdoor market to create economic development as well as build community connections. I know of two families who had never spoken to each other until they met at People's Market - turns out they were next door neighbors. Some folks think Glendale has a reputation as a rough-and-tumble part of town. People's Market is proof that the diversity of our neighborhood is a strength. A lot of change is happening under the radar on the west side of SLC. Tons of young people are moving in, those who got priced out of east bench living. Monster homes are being built; some wealthy folks got the hint that west-siders aren't as uptight as Avenues neighbors. And urban agriculture is everywhere; you might even find places where vegetables are grown illegally: in the front yard.

Gavin: The Market actually started out as a community yard sale. What's the story behind that?

Kyle: I had attended a leadership development class through a local non-profit group. The original intent of attending the class was hopes that would boost my chances at a promotion with my employer at the time (Did I mention I worked a jaunt at a ski resort). I know I'm getting off topic here... The leadership class encouraged students to do a project in their neighborhood to apply their new-found skills. I decided to organize a giant yard sale. There were a ton of people there - it was the first time I was on the news. I was also single at the time, but ended up picking up a girl at the yard sale who I'm still dating.

Gavin: How did the idea come about to make it into what it is today?

Kyle: After the yard sale, people in the neighborhood were itching to see it grow. After incubating on the idea for a year, my girlfriend (the yard sale girl) and I decided to apply for a $25,000 grant to kick-off the project. There was a ton of paperwork and issues to work out. The trick was this: start with tiny partners, a few dedicated people, then convince bigger partners to join your effort based on the "groundswell" of support you "demonstrate." Epilogue: we didn't win the grant but with all the support we had, we were able to see the People's Market through the first year on a $400 grant from NeighborWorks organization.

Gavin: What steps were taken to make it a reality? And did everything come together easily or was it a real challenge to plan it out?

Kyle: The first People's Market had one vendor, a guy I knew brought herbs from his garden. The whole first year was a struggle, our biggest day had 12 vendors, a typical day had 5 - there were about as many customers. Throughout the season, people would show up with a helping hand. The little things meant so much, hand-painted signs for the roadway, articles in the community newsletter, when we got mentioned on KRCL we thought we were big time. Once we finished the first market season, customers, other vendors, and organizations knew that with a little more support they could make it succeed. The biggest challenge with the planning was getting the permits and paperwork processed with the city parks department. We needed to carry a $2,000,000 insurance policy to indemnify the city against someone having an accident. With one vendor, the insurance policy was a bit ridiculous.

Gavin: Why did you choose the Peace Gardens as the location, and also why Sunday as the day for it?

Kyle: After the first market season, we had an organizing committee put together. Organizing for the second year happened on Saturday nights while hanging out. We wanted the venue to be a park in our neighborhood that was big enough to support a growing enterprise and that stayed true to our mission of economic development and building community in our west-side neighborhood. The International Peace Gardens was a perfect fit. There were a few reasons for the Sunday choice. First, nobody wants to go head-to-head with the big dog on the Farmer's Market scene, the Downtown Farmer's Market. The choice for Sunday was in part a hope of attracting those downtown farmers to stay another day. Also, it was the desires of the organizing committee (some who have felt outcast by the dominant Utah culture) to go big and bold. They pushed hard for Sunday. Little did we know that almost every farmer comes from a long-line of pioneer farmers who don't do business on Sunday. The rest of the farmers get only one day off each week - Sunday. So, nearly every farmer we have at the People's Market is one we have 'cultivated' on our own. Most of our farmers are folks who have a knack for producing high-quality food and happen to live in a house with a large urban lot.

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Gavin: Has there been any issues from the city over it, or are they big supporters of the Market?

Kyle: The city loves us and has supported us from the beginning. For our second season, there were three critical supporters at the Mayor's Office: Alison McFarlane, the Econ. Development Director; Ed Butterfield, her right-hand man; and Tyler Curtis the city events main guy. I mention them by name because they were so great to work with. But we get props from the top too. Below is a picture of former Mayor Rocky Anderson who spoke at our 2007 season-ending party. Also, current Mayor Ralph Becker came to speak at our 2008 season kickoff party. Pictures are below. Did I mention that we like to party? Every year, we hold a season kickoff party and a season ending party. We even host a January party, our annual Seed Swap, to keep good times rolling all year round. Sign up for the newsletter on our website to stay informed about the parties.

Gavin: Are the people who sell stuff mainly from the Salt Lake County area, or are there people from all over the state who make the long trip just to be up here?

Kyle: We have vendors from all over the country! Yeah, Georgia, Florida, even a non-profit from New York came this year to set up. Other markets take all their applications in the early months of the year and then don't allow new applicants. People's Market had a rolling jury committee this year which allowed us to take applications throughout the year. We were able to accept some up-start local vendors as well as the national ones who happened to blow through.

Gavin: Has there been any efforts to bring in entertainment during the Market, or do you feel that would be out-of-place?

Kyle: People's Market entertainment has been first-class throughout the year. We set up in a circle with entertainment in the center. Standard fare at the market is our People's Market house band who plays off-and-on for about half of the time. For 30 minutes at noon, representatives from the local Falun Gong organization do a tai-chi style meditation that a bunch of people really get in to. But the best part about our entertainment is absolutely the wild-card element. Our entertainment committee chair, Josh Isbell has made a standing policy of allowing pretty much any qualified entertainer to walk up and perform. Our wild-card performers have included traveling musicians, neighborhood talent, and Eastern European dancers. By far the most memorable occasion was when a team of 30 Aztec dancers walked up wearing gold armor and 6-foot tall feather headdresses. They heard about us and wanted to perform. Josh was all for it. A few minutes later they were slamming on drums, doing high kicks and calling praises to the heavens. People from across the entire park swarmed the to see the show. It was a sight to behold... I attached a picture so you can see.

Gavin: What are your thoughts on the attention the local media have given to People's Market?

Kyle: Local media has been great. At first there were a few nasty letters to the editor in the Trib & D.News. People were decrying how Sunday was such a terrible day to have a market. Television broadcasters have been great. Both the Tribune and Deseret News have given us positive coverage this year. Catalyst and In Magazine have been out to see what's going on. And two special mentions are in order: Ken Fall with KUTV put together a donated TV spot that runs on Channel 2. And the gorgeous ladies of SLUG Magazine, Angela Brown and Meghann Griggs have been superstars to work with.

Gavin: One of the benefits a lot of people like is you don't require a lot of licensing or paperwork to be a part of it. Why so little?

Kyle: Right! Because we're just starting out, we're still nimble. Other markets have huge organizations that funnel applications through a more bureaucratic process. We're pretty easy going at People's Market. If you make it yourself, grow it yourself or are a Buy Local First business - you're pretty much in. Our vendors believe in what they sell - if you don't find a compelling product then I guarantee you'll find an engaging personality.

Gavin: I understand that selling food is a different issue. What kind of requirements are there to sell food?

Kyle: Yep, you got it. Our main requirement is that you follow the law. Also, we're a little more selective on lunch-food vendors, we only let the best ones in. You won't find a fried-lard vendor at People's Market. We're always looking to add more processed food selections to the market (jams, breads, etc.). I can't claim to know the nuanced policies of the department of health so I'm going to punt on this question. People interested in selling hot food prepared at the market should contact the Salt Lake Valley Health Department. This is typical lunch-food fare. People interested in selling pre-packaged food, prepared off-site should contact the Utah Department of Agriculture. This is for foods like jam, pickles, breads, muffins, or cookies etc.

Gavin:
Aside from selling stuff, you also plan activities every couple of weeks. Tell us about some of the stuff you've done this year and coming soon.

Kyle: In a collaboration with Wasatch Community Gardens, we taught a three week entrepreneurship class for up-and-coming farmers. In collaboration with Slow Food Utah and others, we helped promote the Eat Local Challenge (eat local everything for 30 days). Up and coming is our 'Meet the Candidates day' on October 12th. We invited everyone who has anything to do with the area surrounding the International Peace Gardens. Hopefully, we get to know these people who are deciding our laws and policies a little better. Next year we've got a bunch of cool event partners in the queue. But until everything is finalized, I'm obliged to keep my mouth shut.

Gavin: Next week you'll be having a Meet The Candidates Day. Where did the idea come from to do this, and who can we expect to see there?

Kyle: I doubt McCain or Obama will be there. We've invited all the others. I don't think we're voting on dog-catcher this year but if we were...

Gavin: What's coming up at The People's Market for the remaining weeks?

Kyle: The next few weeks of People's Market Sundays will have a bunch of new vendors from Logan and Park City who are coming down to our neck of the woods as their venues are finished for the year. I would not be surprised if we saw some downtown vendors come our way during these weeks as well. Our market goes a little longer than the downtown market this year. Also, did I mention we like to party? Sign up for our newsletter to find out more about our season end party on Saturday, October 25th.

Gavin: What can we expect from you guys the rest of the year?

Kyle:
Stay tuned. After the regular market season is over, we're planning a holiday show. Last year we had a cool indoor market at Cup-of-Joe down at Artspace. If you've been reading the news at all then you know that Artspace is a total cluster right now and Kristy got the boot. So we're still negotiating for the right venue for this year's holiday show.

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Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?

Kyle: Yeah. I want to promote our supporting organizations:

Salt Lake City Corp: www.slcgov.com
SLUG Magazine: www.slugmag.com
ReDirect Guide Salt Lake: www.redirectguide.com
Buy Local First: www.buylocal.org
Third Sun Productions: www.thirdsun.org
Utah Free Media: www.utahfm.org
Ruk Creative: www.rukcreative.com

And local artist Ruby Chacon who donated the artwork for our brochures and posters. Also, one-open palm, held high goes to our volunteer board of directors. And a closed fist goes out to Josh Isbell and the People's Market house band.

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